Survey Results Are In!

In January 2018, LAFS surveyed the Lillooet Community to get feedback on the Grow Forward Workshops that were held in 2017, and to get suggestions for future workshops. The survey was filled out by 41 people. Below are the results of the survey.

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 Comments:

“Great work. But at my stage of life, it’s mostly for fun that I would attend.”
“BC Food systems Network gathering here? Fruit Gleaning project of LFM taken over by someone else with funding for coordinator?”
“Give more time to notify participants of workshops.”
“Making a plant/seed trade would be awesome.”
“I thought that the venue for the pruning workshop at Bridge River was excellent. There was lots of parking available and it was easy to find.”
“Keep it going!”
“I don’t attend as I don’t handle group situations well, so it isn’t lack of interest that keeps me from attending. Your efforts to provide this critical information are appreciated!”
“Thank you for all that your group does for the Lillooet community.”
“Good job with organizing workshops and keeping people informed.”
“Beekeeping!”
“Looking forward to the learning!”
“Great initiative and thanks to the LAFS Society”
“You’re awesome!”
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Buy-Low Foods Can Help Farmers

Getting produce and products into stores can be a challenge for small-scale farmers. Lillooet Buy-Low Foods might be able to help! Store Manager Bob Sheridan says Buy-Low is not only capable of offering a lending hand, but happy to do so, and hoping more farmers will take advantage of the opportunity.

Buy-Low Foods can distribute locally grown produce to other affiliated stores. If you bring one crate of tomatoes, it’s likely Buy-Low will be able to sell the tomatoes right here in the Lillooet store, but if you bring dozens of crates, than they can be sent out to stores in the Lower Mainland. Prices are determined using a pricing system that allows Buy Low to see what other farmers in BC are getting for comparable produce.

Amlec Garlic

In the recent past, Amlec Organic packaged garlic they’d purchased from two local farmers into mesh bags containing three heads each. Lillooet Buy-Low Foods then bought the packaged garlic from Amlec. This is an example of growers coming together to collectively market their produce. Sheridan said the product was popular and encourages others to follow suit.

Proper packaging is a key part to taking advantage of this opportunity. “Produce needs to be packed into clean boxes of consistent dimensions”, Sheridan said. Small-scale farmers often use recycled boxes of mismatched dimensions and this makes it harder to distribute their produce.

If you have any more questions about working with Buy-Low Foods to get your produce into stores, Bob Sheridan is happy to help.

 

Seedy Saturday? Super Successful!

Seedy Saturday - Seed Lending Library

Seed Lending Library

Seedy Saturday was a big success again this year. 112 people came to the event and about 25 stayed for the Tiny Talks in the afternoon.

During the first half of the day, seed vendors, a seed library, and information booths vied for the attention of the growing crowd of attendees. There was also an art corner for kids, a café that sold delicious food made from local ingredients, and a winnower set up outside to clean people’s seeds.

During the second half of the day, four short presentations were given by local gardeners and farmers.

The first presentation, titled “Reclaiming Soil with Hugelkultur”, was given my Denise O’Laney. She explained the benefits of a no-till approach to gardening and showed a power-point presentation which detailed the steps involved in creating a hugelkultur garden bed.

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Christine Mahaits volunteering at the Raffle Table.

The second presentation was titled “Soil Health” and was given by Trevor Chandler. He spoke about the delicate ecosystem that is our soil and how to best protect and manage it.

The third presentation, given by Mojave Kaplan, was titled “Integrating Seed Saving Into Your Garden”. Her power-point presentation guided us through the process of selecting fruits and vegetables from which to collect seeds.

Finally, Matthew Davidson gave us a presentation titled “Amlec Food Security Project”. He told us about how the project was started, its many challenges and successes and its current situation.

After each presentation, 15 minutes were allowed for questions, and in each case, we easily filled that time. The participants were eager to learn and excited by the topics.

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LAFS’ table featured products from local farmers.

Photo Credit: Mischa Chandler

Farmer Focus: Gillian Smith

Gillian Smith has been operating Gillian’s Herbs from her home in the Yalakom since 1994. The business sells a variety of herbal products made by hand by Gillian. She grows most of the herbs herself and wildcrafts the rest. In the short interview below, you will learn more about her practices, philosophy and how to get your hands on her amazing products. Enjoy!

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your family?

A: I am a plant and animal loving multi-tasker by nature and, though as a child was convinced I’d be a veterinarian when I grew up, I started my love of herbs eating wintergreen and pine needles from my rural backyard outside of North Bay, Ontario at the young age of 3.  In high school, my girlfriend and I dabbled in herbal medicine, making love potions, teas and visiting herb shops in Toronto.  In university, it became clear that botany was more to my liking as an academic focus and so veterinary medicine was shelved, and that led me to start a Master’s degree at the University of Victoria. There I became quite disillusioned with academics in general and, quite by chance, found a beginner’s herb class to lighten my spirit. It was there that my love of herbs and herbal medicine really germinated and I haven’t looked back once. I’ve been taught by some of the greatest herbalists on the planet, traveling as far as Albuquerque to study, returning to BC to sell my wares. I started with a simple salve of Sage and Comfrey which morphed into the now famous Seven Herb Healing Salve. 26 years later, my family of 3 homesteads a piece of paradise in the Yalakom Valley where we grow a wide variety of medicinal and culinary herbs, as well as food crops next to our owner built straw bale home.

Q: What is your business and what do you grow for it?

A: Gillian’s Herbs is almost exclusively a one woman run business that produces small batch, high quality herbal products ranging from medicinal tinctures, tea blends, skin care products, aromatherapy products and herbal condiments for the dining table.  I grow the vast majority of the herbs for the products and, at last count, my plant list was at 44 species.  I also wildcraft many herbs from around the area and delight in the knowledge that if my timing is off for harvesting a plant at one elevation, there’s a good chance that it’s available just “up the road” at a higher elevation!  I am deeply grateful for the gift that plants provide, and am humbled in the knowledge that the ancestors of this land and lands throughout the earth are watching and lending their wisdom as I harvest.

Q: Can you tell us about your farming practices?

A: We only use organic growing practices married with a sprinkling of permaculture methods.  I received a certificate in Permaculture Design right here in Lillooet under the tutelage of Alice Kidd.  When wildcrafting, I am strict in using ecological and ethical values when choosing where, when and how much to harvest – away from roads, power lines, train tracks to avoid dust and pollution; only harvest a maximum of 40% of the plants in a given area to leave behind enough for wildlife, pollinators, genetic material; harvest at the right time to get the best quality medicine as well as for when it’s right for that species, and so on.

Q: What is the best way to purchase your products?

A: Currently, my website provides a good catalogue of my products and contacting me directly is the best way to purchase my products.  Creative Haven on Main Street in Lillooet also carries many of my products.  I’d love to see a permanent Farmer’s Market storefront in town set up soon!  I’m game to “man” the shop if the opportunity ever comes!

Request for Proposals for the Abattoir Feasibility Study

The Lillooet Agriculture & Food Society needs an Abattoir Feasibility Study and is accepting proposals in response to this Request for Proposal (RFP) to find a qualified source to provide an Abattoir Feasibility Study. The goal of the Abattoir Feasibility Study is to:

  1. Determine the economic viability of a licensed abattoir
  2. Evaluate the market and assess the financial feasibility of an abattoir
  3. Research and recommend abattoir structure, type and possible locations
  4. Research and recommend partnerships, training and value-added products
  5. A list of recommendations regarding next steps

You can find the RFP here.

Proposals must be received prior to February 28, 2018 to be considered.

 

LAFS Welcomes New Executive Director: Angela Bissat

angelabLAFS would like to welcome its new Executive Director, Angela Bissat. Angela was born in Flint, Michigan and raised in Davison, Michigan. She first moved to Lillooet in 1983 and lived here for 15 years before moving away to Phoenix in 1998. She has now been back in Lillooet since 2008 and operates the consulting and grant writing business Al-I Initiatives.

Angela is the mother of three sons, and has one granddaughter. She has a Bachelor of Science degree with dual majors in Management & Business Administration from University of Phoenix. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree at age 42 while a single mom to 3 teenage boys.

Since returning to Lillooet, Angela has been involved with many initiatives in Lillooet including the Chamber of Commerce, the Rowing Club and, more recently, the Wildfire Recovery Assistance Program. “I like to see things grow and develop.” Angela explained. “In my case, it isn’t produce or livestock, but the business of agriculture, tourism, etc. It’s exciting to see a new project brought forth from an idea through the development process. In a way it’s similar to raising kids! I’m so proud when the project is ‘grown’ and on its own.”

Bissat has experience in the travel and tourism industry, in logistics, sales, management and business development. She loves to travel, camp and hike, and is a big Detroit Lions and University of Michigan football fan.

Angela has already proved herself to be a great addition to the team. LAFS is lucky to have her!

Funding Received for Abattoir Feasibility Study

LAFS has been approved for $10,000 in funding to create an Abattoir Feasibility Study! A big thank you to the Province of BC and Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development for supporting this project.

The project will fund a feasibility study to establish a local abattoir for the Lillooet region. The goals of the study are as follows:

o Determine the economic viability of a licensed abattoir in the Lillooet region
o Evaluate the market and assess the financial feasibility of an abattoir
o Research and recommend partnerships, training and value-added products
o A list of recommendations regarding next steps

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There is strong interest from local producers to research the opportunities and barriers to establishing an abattoir and related businesses. Producers want to decrease their travel time to licensed facilities. Currently, they must travel approximately 140 kilometres each way. The study will include recommendations on the type of abattoir that would be best suited for our region and possible locations (if location is permanent). Partnerships, training and value-added products will also be researched.

A Request for Proposal has been developed and will be distributed in early February.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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Photo Credit: Spray Creek Ranch

Director Bio: Tristan Banwell

tristancircleTristan Banwell has been involved with LAFS from the start. As President of the society and full-time rancher, he is a strong advocate for local and sustainable agriculture.

In this short interview, Banwell tells us about his family, his farm and his vision.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your family?

My wife Aubyn and I moved to Lillooet in early 2014 to manage Spray Creek Ranch. Aubyn majored in Studio Art at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA and I studied Natural Resources Conservation at UBC before we married — but we met in band class in high school in Northern California.  I worked and studied around the world and Aubyn and I homesteaded for five years on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State before moving to Lillooet.

It was while we were homesteading off-grid on the Olympic Peninsula, that we started trying to become more self-sufficient and grow some food. When you do something you love you are bound to produce a surplus.  We saw that raising our own livestock for meat, milk and eggs was beneficial for our health and the health of the land, and soon we had chickens, ducks, goats and pigs rotating around the farmstead.  Before long, we were producing a wide range of vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, meats and eggs for on-farm sales to our small community and we knew this was what we wanted to do for a living.

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Q: When did you get involved with LAFS and why?

A: When I moved to Lillooet, I saw so much potential and had plenty of ideas.  When I discovered the Ag Plan, I realized a diverse group of people had already spent a lot of time thinking about how to build a sustainable food system in our area.  I decided to start working on some of the tasks identified in the Ag Plan, one of which was starting a “farmers’ institute”, which became LAFS.

Q: Can you tell us about your farming practices?

A: Spray Creek Ranch is a certified organic and diversified regenerative farm using ecological principles to produce wholesome, delicious pastured meats.  We raise certified organic beef cattle, pigs, meat chickens, turkeys and laying hens on pasture as part of an integrated and regenerative agroecological system.  We also operate a growing on-farm abattoir and meat shop, and are moving toward slaughtering all our livestock on the farm and providing slaughter and cut & wrap services to other farms in our region.

Q: Where are your products sold?

A: Customers can find us selling our beef, pork, chicken, turkey and eggs at the Lillooet, Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish Farmers’ Markets.  We are also open by appointment for tours and on-farm sales, and you can taste our products at our favourite local eateries: Abundance Artisan Bakery and The Kitchen at Fort Berens Estate Winery.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: We are growing our business each year as we develop our systems, connect with more customers and find out what works.  In 2018 we will be producing a lot more beef, increasing the size of our laying flock and building on the capacity of our on-farm meat shop.

Photo Credit: Spray Creek Ranch

Wildfire Recovery Support Program

The Wildfire Recovery Support Program hosted by Community Futures offers hands on support to businesses, including those involved in agriculture, who have been affected by the 2017 wildfires and associated road closures.
 
Community Futures has hired Business Ambassadors to work with businesses to offer referrals and assistance. This includes grant application assistance, agricultural supports, Health and Wellness programming and other financial opportunities such as supplemented business loans.
 
Angela Bissat is the Business Ambassador for the Lillooet area, focusing on meeting with owner/operators from all business sectors including agriculture.
 
A brief questionnaire will identify individual needs; then opportunities for assistance and referrals can be identified. Results will be used for statistical tracking and to identify programs that may support the business.
 
The Red Cross Wildfire Recovery Program is now in effect and the application window is open through April 6, 2018. If your business was affected by the wildfires and associated road closures in 2017, please contact Angela Bissat at 778.207.0588 or angela@cfsun.ca with any questions or to schedule an appointment.
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Farmer Focus: Chris Billion from One Love Farm

Chris Billion from One Love Farm is not new to farming, a fact that is made obvious by the quality of the food he grows. However, since he is new to Lillooet, introductions are in order!

In this short interview, Billion introduces us to his family and his farm, and tells us of the family’s move to Lillooet.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your family?

A: Our immediate family consists of Arlo, our almost three-year old son. He’s a busy little boy who loves talking and tractors. Becky is my wife. She is a passionate artist, hard-working teacher and flower farmer. I’m Chris, the farmer.

Becky, Arlo and I love food and living close to nature. Our passions encompass the growing, preparing, and enjoying of the fresh and tasty gifts that emerge from the earth. We honour the delicate balance of forces which come together to create this bounty. We are thrilled not only to be living this dream ourselves, but to have the opportunity to share our offerings with our Community and beyond.

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Q: When and why did you move your farm to Lillooet?

A: We bought our farm way back in the summer of 2016. Lots has happened since then… I can’t believe it has only been a year. We had been looking for the perfect plot of land for many years… a place that would fill our need for natural surroundings, coupled with the resources to grow beautiful food.  After a few decades of leasing or caretaking various properties, we had a pretty long list of criteria to fulfill our idea of “perfect”. With Lillooet always on the radar, our search took us all over the province. We looked at many beautiful farms but none were quite “perfect” for one reason or other. No water, no sun, no road… When we finally found this place, we knew it was the “one”. It was a blank canvas on which to paint our beautiful, bountiful future.

We knew that Lillooet was a naturally beautiful place, but the community is exceeding any expectations we may have had. We feel pretty lucky to have landed in such a land of supportive neighbours and organic farmers. I would have had a tough time making it through the year without their help.

Q: Can you tell us about your farming practices?

A: I farm vegetables and will be adding fruit trees and perennials over the next few years. I like to farm in balance with nature. It is against my beliefs to use synthetic chemicals to grow things. Compost, cover crops, and mulching are more my style.

I use a small tractor, a walk-behind tractor, and an assortment of hand tools. Love is my biggest input.

Q: What do you grow and how can people buy your produce?

A: I try to grow pretty much anything our climate will allow. I’m so excited to be able to grow the heat-loving crops that Lillooet is becoming famous for. I have been supplying two weekly farmers markets in Vancouver since June with a wide assortment of vegetables. So many kinds of peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, greens, peas beans, etc, etc…  At the moment, I have many varieties of squash, shallots and storage onions.

My Farmers markets are on Thursdays at Queen Elizabeth Theatre downtown Vancouver 11am-3pm and Saturdays at Riley Park Vancouver from 10am-2pm. I’ve been selling to a few Lillooet residents, as well as to the Kitchen at Fort Berens and Abundance Bakery.

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 11.39.20 AM.pngNow that I’ve had a year of growing on this land, and have established a reliable market, I can focus next year on providing a reliable flow of vegetables to the members of my community. I’m not sure if this will be through the Lillooet Farmers Market or through pre-orders. It would be great to have some input from the those interested in receiving my produce.

At the moment, I’d love to make available my onions, shallots and squash. I’m taking orders now.

Chris can be reached at oneloveorganicfarm@gmail.com or  778-558-0593. He posts beautiful pictures regularly to Instagram under the username “onelove.farm”.